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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Knowledge is Strength

By Patrick Donston

Store Owner, Absolutely Fish

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I've mentioned in previous blogs how a knowledgeable staff can help a shop develop and promote good marketing techniques. A strong staff offers advantages over the competition by:

  1. becoming a shop where advanced hobbyists and newbies go to for information;
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  2. making fewer mistakes or misleading customers, thus giving the shop a better reputation;
    .
  3. keeping, in general, the "in-house" livestock healthier and aquariums more presentable;
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  4. being more innovative and more liable to keep up with new trends; and
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  5. helping a shop with the best type of advertisement—word of mouth, as in "go see Bill or Susan, they really know their stuff and will set you up right."

Our store has been complimented numerous times on our knowledgeable staff. Customers sing their praises and manufacture reps have expressed their worth and I've even been told "how fortunate” I am.

I've never been one to look for and hire "the fish guy in town," the one who claims to know everything. I especially proceed with caution when the former manager of another shop comes a-calling for work. They may be good, but you have to wonder why they are no longer with their previous employers.

To me, a knowledgeable staff is an educated staff. What I mean is you need to develop your own knowledgeable staff through education. Design an aquatics training manual. Test your employees, and never--EVER--stop learning yourself. That way, by your example, your staff will want to continue to learn as well.

The education process starts with the systems and manuals you use to help develop employees into those you want to represent your company. You may be the brains of your company, but they are the face of the company, and that's whom your customers usually judge you by. I've learned it's easier to train a passionate newbie, than trying to teach an old dog how to learn new tricks.

Once systems are in place, hiring the right candidate is just as important. Remember: Employee training starts at the application and interview process. A store should not just look for experience. Passion, enthusiasm and a good work ethic are what you should be looking for, as these qualities are hard to teach. With the right manuals and mentors, you can teach animal husbandry.
 
There are a number of valuable resources to help you develop a quality training manual in the aquatics field. Contact your marine and freshwater wholesalers, and industry organizations (such as PIDA, WWPIA, PIJAC, APA); Pet Store Pro and NexPet can provide guidance as well. Trade magazines are another great resource. In addition, if you go to any of the major trade shows, there always seems to be a seminar on developing training manuals--sit in on one, listen and learn.

In my next blog, I will give some specific pointers for you to use in your aquatics manual. Therefore, if you don't have one, start making one or at least give some thought to what benefit having one will afford you.

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